So, someone gave you a new iPhone, IPod video, Creative Zen Vision, Archos PVR or other fancy device for the holiday and now you need to know how to copy your DVDs to it so you can take them with you?
Or maybe you didn’t get one of those, but you’d like to load a few movies onto your laptop for when you travel? I also encountered these issues so, after wasting almost two entire days searching for a simple guide and installing at least 10 different programs, I finally decided on two different methods to share. I hope this saves someone else countless hours wasted.
First, the Free Method:
We’re going to have to use two programs to reliably pull this off.
- We’ll use a program called cladDVD.NET to rip the DVD content to a hard drive
- Then we’ll use a program called AutoGK (short for Auto Gordian Knot) to convert it to a format appropriate for your device.
When we’re done you’ll be able to watch the finished videos on your PC or transfer them to your Personal Media Player (PMP).
Place the DVD you wish to copy into your DVD drive. If your computer automatically launches the DVD player just stop it.
Launch the cladDVD.NET program. Hit the SCAN DVD button and on the tab labeled “PGC Mode [AVI]” it should give you a list of VTS files on the DVD. Highlight the one that looks like the approximate length of the movie.
Select the OPTIONS button and choose the destination on your hard drive that you would like to save this temporary file to by clicking on the little animated disk. Be aware that this will likely occupy 3-4GB of space. It can be deleted after we finish the entire process, but for now you’ll need that much free space on a hard drive somewhere.
After cladDVD has finished ripping the DVD to the hard drive remember where you saved it as we’ll need it in the next step. Ripping the DVD will take about 15-20 minutes if you have a reasonably new DVD player.
You may notice that AutoGK will rip from a DVD as well… and if you want to use it on home made DVDs that’s fine, but it won’t work on commercial DVDs because it doesn’t remove the copy protection. That’s why we used cladDVD to start with.
Converting the File to Play on your Device
Now it’s time to launch AutoGK. When you run the program you’ll encounter a screen with areas labeled steps 1-4. The first thing you need to do is find the line that says “INPUT FILE” and select the little file folder icon on the right and browse to the location where you saved the file you ripped with cladDVD. It will have a .VOB extension.
In the AUDIO TRACK area select the audio tracks you would like to be included within the file. Considering that most PMP devices are only stereo, I would recommend the 2 channel option only as opposed to the 6 channel option. It will sound better through stereo headphones and will save space making for higher quality video.
NOTE: You may have to refer back to cladDVD to see which of the sound tracks the stereo one is if the labels aren’t clearly marked, which happens sometimes.
If you require subtitles select the appropriate language within the SUBTITLE TRACKS area.
In the SELECT OUTPUT SIZE area I recommend specifying a size in MB that you are comfortable with. For hard drive based players with at least 20 GB I would suggest setting the size at 500MB. I’ve found that this size offers very good playback quality on the small screen and reasonable quality if you plug your device into a larger TV for playback.
If you are planning to primarily play back on a larger screen, set your output size to 1,000 MB.
You’re now ready to select the Add Job button, and then the Start button.
At this point you’re done. Now you have to play the waiting game. I’ve found that on my PC (3.2 GHZ P4, 2 GB RAM) it takes about 3 hours to complete the process for each movie. There will be a little DOS window running until it’s done – do not close it! This is while I have other stuff running in the background and while I’m using the computer. Results may vary.
Next, the slightly easier, faster – but not Free version…
The $29 Method:
There is a piece of software called Pocket DVD Wizard which automates the process of ripping content from the DVD straight to a file formatted for a particular device.
It doesn’t offer the same level of control over the process, but it is simpler and some people need that.
The selection of pre-formatted output options include:
I found that using this software was faster, and simpler, than using the previously mentioned free method when it comes to doing the file conversion; however, if you have a Zen Vision W, when you are given the screen to choose which device to use select to convert to MP4 format – NOT Zen Vision. They are referring to the older Zen Vision with lower resolution so MP4 renders much better results.
Having said that, I did contact them about this issue and they told me that they expect to release an update in January which specifically includes the Zen Vision W.
I’m not going to provide step by step instructions for this software because it should be self explanatory. Download and try out the free demo before you pay for the full version to make sure you’re going to be able to use it.
Between the two methods, I’ll probably stick with the free version because I prefer quality over ease of use. But you should feel free to try both methods and see for yourself what you can live with.
Either way you should end up with a compact version of your DVD in a format that you can load right onto your pocket media enabled device or laptop.
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